NYCHA Extends Eviction Moratorium for Sandy-Stricken Apartments

By Alan Neuhauser on December 3, 2012 2:49pm 

NEW YORK — Score one for the Red Hook Houses.

A group of public housing residents in the sprawling complex, which didn't have heat, power or hot water for weeks after Hurricane Sandy, won a series of concessions from the New York City Housing Authority Friday afternoon.

Among the wins, the group convinced the agency to extend a moratorium on evictions and housing court actions from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1, and to institute a color-coded announcement system to help residents know which messages posted in buildings are most urgent.

NYCHA announced the moratorium extension Friday afternoon, hours after agency representatives attended a sit-down meeting with the Red Hook Coalition, a group that was formed when public housing residents joined forces with private residents, community activists and politicians in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The announcement came one day after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — whose district in Manhattan's Lower East Side includes several storm-battered projects — called on NYCHA to extend its eviction moratorium.

The measure, effective immediately, applies to any building that lost power, heat, or hot water as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

The agency declined to implement a two-month rent credit requested by residents, instead sticking to its plan to prorate residents' rents based on the amount of time they went without utilities. However the moratorium does effectively allow residents more time to pay their rent.

The concession represents just one of about 29 "needs" from the Red Hook Coalition that NYCHA pledged to meet, according to residents who attended the Friday meeting.

"It's promising," said Wally Bazemore, 60, a Red Hook Houses resident and longtime community activist who took part in the meeting with NYCHA.

"They made some concessions — not because they volunteered to do this. Strategically, we've made a coalition, we've had a lot of help."

NYCHA did not comment on the meeting. Instead, it referred to a statement it sent by email last Monday, asserting the agency remains "interested in working collaboratively with organizations or individuals with a positive agenda that will benefit public housing residents."

Those who attended the sitdown said NYCHA agreed to begin categorizing its announcements by color, such as by printing more urgent messages on red paper as opposed to white. The agency also said it would repair common spaces and incinerators damaged by Hurricane Sandy, remove mold and asbestos, and coordinate community outreach efforts with local organizations to avoid duplication.

"They took seriously all the requests — that's a good thing," said Reg Flowers, a Red Hook resident who facilitated the meeting. "I was pleased."

The Red Hook Coalition will present the results of the sit-down, and discuss any planned follow-up action, at a community meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Miccio Center on West 9th Street in Red Hook.

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